There’s a border between Italy and Switzerland. Although it’s an open border, there are many contrasts between both countries. Even at the closest points like Como and Lugano, it’s very clear that one is Italian and the other is Swiss. However, the most common striking point is that this area is absolutely stunning. So I managed to visit and combine both during a Dolce Vita weekend gateway!
City: Como and Lugano
Como and Lugano are two nearby cities acting as the main urban areas for Como Lake and Lugano Lake. Even though only 28 miles separate these two cities, there’s a noticeable contrast but plenty of things to do! For a weekend only, I managed to visit both lakes by combining them in one trip.
Landing at Milan Malpensa Airport
The closest airports are Milan Malpensa which is very well connected to international flights. There is also Lugano Airport but there are less offers on flights there.
Naturally, I went to Milan Malpensa from London Stansted, only paying £30 for a return from Friday to Monday. Such a great offer with Ryanair.
From Malpensa Airport, it’s possible to get to directly to Como Lago Nord by train but a change is required at Saronno. The train ticket costs 10.90 euros and the whole journey takes 1h30 minutes including the change. Check Trenitalia‘s website for more details.
In my case, I arrived late at night so I missed my train from Malpensa Airport, then I missed my connection at Saronno. Luckily, there is a bus that leaves from Saronno to Como City at 00.42.
One night in Como City
On arrival at Como City, I checked into Ostello Bello which is very well located. I enjoyed my stay especially since it was clean, friendly staff and great breakfast!
10.00: Como Waterfront
The next morning, I was out to explore. I started with a walk by the waterfront which was quite active with joggers, families and tourists. However, it was quite relaxed and peaceful despite the crowds. In contrast, the Old Town is much louder and stressful as crowds go shopping there. I escaped to Brunate, a small village up in the mountains.
11.00: Brunate by funicular
Brunate is accessible by car and by funicular. Obviously, I took the funicular which costs 5.50 euros. The ride was fun as the view gets spectacular on the way. But the most impressive views are the one on the very top! It’s possible to see all the way to Milan skyscrapers, 80 km farther.
13.00 Lunch at Posta Bistrot
I met a Swiss friend at Como Duomo from where we have escaped the crowds of tourists towards a quieter area to have lunch at Posta Bistrot. Since we were in Italy, Italian food had to follow! I took a pizza with local beef called Bresaola. Delicious!
15.00 Road trip to Villa Balbianello
Since my friend had a car, we drove to Lugano but on the way, we stopped at some interesting sights. Driving by the road on the lake with the magical scenery of Como and the tiny roads of the villages, I felt like in Gran Tourismo (one of my favourite video games on PlayStation!). The Villa is located near Lenno, a small village by the lake.
Villa Del Balbianello is mostly famous for its features on many Hollywood movies including James Bond.
After leaving the car by the parking, we took a ferry boat to get to the Villa. The other alternative was walking 20 minutes. Obviously, the ferry is much quicker and more scenic! The Villa is quite impressive. I was really feeling like in James Bond movie set to be honest!
16.00 Ice cream at La Fabbrica Del Gelato in Lenno
Gelato doesn’t rhyme well with the word Italy. But the two clearly go well together. It’s impossible for me being in Italy and not enjoying its culinary treasures. I took a cone with Mango and Vanilla flavours to cool down from La Fabbrica Del Gelato and enjoyed it in front of the lake.
Driving to Lugano
It was about time to say goodbye to Como. Another adventure in another country was about to begin. I was heading to Lugano, in the southernmost region of Switzerland known as Ticino.It is also known as the “Italian part of Switzerland”. Or as Lugano Tourismo brands it as “Swiss Mediterranean”.
The drive was about 35 minutes from Lenno, after passing by the Western road of Como Lake. Slowly on the distance, Lugano Lake starts to appear and suddenly, the border between Italy and Switzerland was there.
17.00 Gandria, first stop in Lugano Lake
The first stop on the way to Lugano City was Gandria, a small village facing the lake and the mountains. It feels quite remote but in reality, it’s only 10 minutes away from Lugano City. At 5 pm, it was quiet a peaceful but every now and then, some kids playing appear out of nowhere or a cute cat walks by to greet us. I barely left Italy but I could feel the contrasts between both countries. The Swiss seem much quieter and rather discreet compared to their Italian counterpart.
One night in Lugano
I was lucky that my friend hosted me in her flat in Lugano. Because let’s face it, it might be closer to Italy than to Zurich but it still is Switzerland… with its crazy high prices. The funny thing I learnt from my friend is that you cannot take shower in residential flats after 10 pm. It’s funny for someone like me from Morocco as 10 pm is only about dinner time!
19.00 Mojito time by Lugano Waterfront
To cool down from a very busy day, me and my friend went for a mojito at a place simply called Mojito. It was a beautiful and sunny day! Such a perfect atmosphere. It was also an opportunity to meet locals and also observe them. It’s funny how they physically look like the typical Swiss people except that they spoke Italian with no other similarity traits to Italians!
20.00 Dinner at Cantinone
For a traditional dinner with food from around the region, I was invited to Cantinone. Food was great and service was very quick! Portions are quite generous and great attention to details. I recommend it as it is an easy-going place to have a decent meal in town.
23.00 Drinks at Turba
As I relied on my friend who grew up and lived in Lugano most of her life, I was in good hands to explore some hidden places where locals go to. Outside Turba, there is no sign at the door, no adverts, it’s just a house like any other. We just went in, like going into a friend’s house but inside, it’s a great place to lounge and drink some of the best cocktails in town. However, use of the bar is reserved for members only but they let us in without membership. Try your luck, it’s so worth it!
The next day: Visit of Monte Tamaro
Monte Tamaro is about 12 miles away from Lugano City. It’s a mountain of the Lugano prealps. It’s possible to get there by train as it’s only 300 meters from Rivera-Bironico Station. To reach the top, there’s a huge push available, it’s the cableway. A return trip costs 25 CHF.
When reaching the top, it’s possible to enjoy various activities: take a hike to the very top, taste local cuisine at the restaurant or explore the art displayed around. Or it’s possible to just sit back and relax…
Is a week-end enough to see both Como and Lugano?
Everything I mentioned above was done in a week-end. One night in Como and one night in Lugano. My program for these two days was packed but well organised in advance so that I can combine both lakes. The reality is that I wish I had stayed longer but I would say a week-end is totally fine. It’s enough to have a great taster of the region, enjoy a very special side of Europe and come back again!
Disclaimer: Thanks to Lugano Tourismo for providing assistance for my trip in Lugano. I appreciate their help but all views on this blog post are my own.
Have you been to Como and/or Lugano? Anything to add from your own experience?